(The Red Rising trilogy, Book 2)
DESCRIPTION: Once a lowly Red of the Martian mines, Darrow allowed himself to be utterly transformed by the Carvers of the terrorist group Sons of Ares, reforging him as a Gold: the corrupted ruling class of humanity's interplanetary empire, who slaughter the lesser Colors and the weaker of their own kind as some might casually swat a fly. Against the odds, he rose to the top of the class at the Mars Institute, securing an apprenticeship with the planetary governor (and murderer of his Red wife, revolutionary Eo), Augustus. But none can rise in Gold society without making a few enemies... and even the brightest star can wane.
Two years after victory, Darrow faces defeat and disgrace, engineered by jealous advisors and the family of an old enemy, Cassius of the house Bellona. Worse, he's been out of contact with the Sons of Ares, making him fear that he's been cut off, cast adrift in a world not his own. He's come too far to give up, though, and Eo's dream of a liberated Color-free society carries him onward... even if he must make deals with many devils, and confront his own failings as leader and man.
REVIEW: The first book, Red Rising, was on the upper edge of Young Adult, as a teenage Darrow struggled to carve a place in Gold society while clinging to his Red heart and dreams. As intense and often violent as that one was, with numerous backstabbings and deaths, this one takes things to a whole new level. It isn't just fellow students who live and die around him, often by his word - it's entire ships of lowColors, whole families of Golds. Darrow thought he'd cut his teeth in the Institute, but that was just the first skirmish of the greater war, one which finds him still ill-prepared in many ways to survive, let alone win. The pace is relentless,
full of names that had faded in memory since I read the first book; I recommend a reread of Book 1 if there's been a gap. Lacking the time for that (and the inclination,
frankly; my reality is full enough of corrupt leadership flaunting their power and indulging in petty games regardless of civilian casualties), I was treading
water for a good chunk of the book, and though I more or less oriented myself, I know there were many subtleties I likely missed for not having refreshed my memory. Darrow continues his impossible balancing act, trying to be Gold enough to gain enough power for his goals without losing himself in their games, which he knows he cannot win. His disadvantage - a Red upbringing, emphasizing family and friendship - becomes both a strength and a liability, making him enough of a wild card that he can be hard to predict... and offering enough of a weakness for enemies to exploit. With
so little downtime between ambushes, attacks, and backstabs (which are as common as greetings among the Golds, and as casually engaged in), Golden Son makes for an often-harrowing read as it races toward a climactic ending... which, as a spoiler-free warning, is bleak enough that one might want to have Book 3 on hand before reaching it. Overstimulation and name
confusion almost cost it a half-star, but I gave it the benefit of the doubt. As disturbing as it is at times, it's nevertheless well written, and it serves its
purpose in making me eager to find the third and final installment - if only on increasingly-dim hope of a brighter ending than the one found here.
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